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You could say it’s starting out like any other night.
I’m sitting here, in this grubby grey room, with my colleagues peering through the black window as the twitchy fellow peers at me, wide-eyed and practically livid with fear. I had dealt with people like this before, drunks, men and women high as kites, and this guy looks just as deranged as the rest of them. I press down the record button and giving my spiel about where I am, what I’m doing, before asking his name. He’s an older gentleman, has a few stress lines and bags under his eyes like an old dog. He looks at me for a minute, fear in his face, before stuttering out a name.
"S-Stewart." I look down at my papers, detailing the events that landed him in this little room. Information on a guy he stole a wallet from in broad daylight, which seems to make sense if my deductions on his less than lawful substance abuse were right.
I think, trying to phrase out a question even he can understand. "Are you drunk, Stewart?"
He looks at me, irritation plastered across his face. "Oh, definitely, I don’t think I’d be nearly as calm if I wasn’t smashed," he scowled. Well, if he isn’t drunk he’s certainly rude.
I arch an eyebrow, quizzically. "So you think stealing was a good idea?"
"I suppose. Not having any money of my own means it’s the only thing I actually can do."
From this angle, the man doesn’t exactly look down on his luck. A well-pressed coat and a carefully kept hat give me the impression he probably gets a larger salary than I do. "You don’t get a good salary?"
"Well… not exactly. I can’t work, so to speak, so I can’t exactly get a salary."
I try and inspect him even further. A lack of a cast or limp means I cant see any sort of physical disabilities, so it makes sense that the guy’s probably mentally unstable. I guess I should check out if he has an illness.
"One moment sir."
I push myself out of the chair and exit the room, walking towards the onlookers.
"Does this guy have a record of mental health issues?"
The two detectives seated look at each other before shrugging nonchalantly. I sigh, annoyed. "Great help you two are."
I walk over to the computer and look up Stewart, see if he’s on record. And sure enough, I find a multitude of conditions he appears to have. Schizophrenia, paranoia, anxiety, depression. Jesus, this guy’s got some issues. I return to the room, Stewart looks as bug eyed as ever.
"So, you have mental disorders, correct?"
He sighs, gloomily before answering my question.
"Apparently, though I like to think I’m not crazy."
I nod, sympathetically. Poor guy must have had a breakdown or something.
"What’s your occupation, sir?" I ask, gently.
"I used to farm crop. Wasn’t much but it was good for living off of and selling."
"I see." I note it down, attempting to actually use the notebook that I never use. I manage to get three words.
Farmer. Scared. Crazy
Huh, must be a record.
"Why did you stop working?"
He looks at me, his eyes red and his mouth quivering as he try’s to speak, only managing to splutter out non-connected syllables.
"Easy, easy. Take your time, sir."
He stops trying to explain, collects himself, takes a deep breath and goes on.
"It’s hard to explain…"
"Take your time."
He rubs his head, as he try’s to think.
"You ever been stalked?"
"Stalked? There’s someone stalking you?"
"Yes! Well, no. Sort of."
I cock an eyebrow.
Obviously struggling he puts his head in his hands as he moans in desperation.
"Every week this guy comes around and stalks me, ok? I went to the city to try and eat something, but having no money meant that I had to resort to theft, make sense?"
I pause, wrapping my head around his problem.
"Ok… have you called the police about this?"
He looks at me, mouth agape like I’m some kind of idiot.
"Of course, but do you really think he sticks around? He leaves by the time they arrive, which, might I add, takes a while due to living in the middle of nowhere."
He puts extra emphasis on the while, like it’s some kind of insult directed at me.
If this guy wasn’t crazy I might actually be offended.
"Ok… then what does he looks like?"
At this, he immediately drops the tough guy act and curls back into his paranoid look.
"…Would you take any description?"
What an odd thing to ask... I look at him, confused for a minute before agreeing.
"Well… and I know you’re not gonna believe me, but he’s got tattered clothes. Straw hat. Stitched up face like… a scarecrow, really."
Well, I was right. He certainly did have a mental breakdown.
"And… what does this scarecrow, as you put it, do?"
"Follows me. Everywhere I go he follows me!" he stands up, shakily "Up and down this damn state! He tries to take me for some reason, I have no idea why, and all the damn while he whistles that… that maddening tune!"
I notice he starts to get agitated as he continues.
"The worst part is that I don’t know what he wants. I don’t know if he wants me dead, or kidnapped, or worse. So I’m starting to go god damn insane! I keep hearing that god damn tune in the streets, I keep seeing his face around corners for brief seconds, and I’m terrified that one of these days it WILL get me!"
By the end of it all, the man looks as exasperated as ever, almost hyperventilating like he’s being choked on his own fear.
"Sir, please calm down!"
I put my hand on his shoulder, trying to ease him off a bit.
"Sir, I know it’s hard, but you must understand that he’s not real-"
"He is you god-damn fool!"
And with that, he topples me me to the ground with a swift punch, anger positively flaring from him like a mad dog, his teeth bearded, knuckles locked and ready to start beating me to a pulp. But before he starts to stomp my face in, the two detectives burst in and hold him tight by the arms as he struggles like a bear in a trap. I stand, unsteady, before rubbing my bloodied face clean with my sleeve.
"Ok, you’re going to be spending a night in the cells, Stewart, you can’t just assault an officer!"
He stops struggling abruptly, looking at me, mouth wide with terror, like I’ve just told him he’s going to be executed at dawn. The detectives start to drag him to the cells
"No, no, no! You can’t! You don’t understand! It’s the final weeknight! He’ll find me, I cant stay in a cell, let go!"
He squawks and screeches these phrases madly while he’s being pulled, and he’s thrown in the dank cell. Before I lock him in, he screams, at the top of his voice,
"He’ll come after you next, you monster! You can’t do this! You can't!"
"Jesus, what a guy." One of the detectives mutters in disbelief.
"Yeah, well, he’s locked up. He’ll calm down in the morning, you two can see to that."
They look at each other, grin, and turn back to me.
"Actually, it’s your turn to look over the station tonight."
I grimace, before accepting my mundane task, and heading into the office. The rest of the force exit, the streetlights flicker into life, and the pleasant ‘'bing of the coffee machine rings out in the room. I prepare for the long night ahead, and the night of no sleep, which, come to think of it, shouldn’t be much of an issue, as Stewart doesn’t seem to be quieting down any time soon. For a while, I wonder. Is Stewart actually crazy? Is this thing that’s following him real? I ponder over the question in my mind. Hours pass, keeping myself amused by reading the comments section of the paper, Boisterous and Moronic opinions litter the pages, and all with their own hilarious takes on daily…
The lights are out.
I pause. No light, no nothing. Just darkness. Irritated, I head over to the fuse box in the dusty tech room. Opening the box, I pause. All of the switches are up. All fine. Huh.
No noise. Not even Stewart’s screams are ringing out through the building. I head back to the office to look outside. The Lamps are off. Nothing. Just silence.
There’s a noise.
A whistled tune through the silence.
I squint through the blackness before seeing it. It takes me a while until is spot a faint light in the distance. A tall figure walking across the street, and a face masked by a long straw hat. I crouch down, making sure I’m not seen. It takes me a minute before I realise it.
This must be the ‘scarecrow’ Stewart was talking about. From the straw hat, to the whistling, to the height, it all fits. I can barely make out his shape, in all honesty, a shroud in the blackness, like a phantom. Now he’s coming through the door, no footsteps, like he’s floating above ground, Its almost if he’s a phantom. I can hear him in the hallway, hell, is he coming for me? I crawl towards the cabinet and duck behind it, just in case he spots me. I wait with baited breath as the whistling intensifies… then fades. He’s passing by. But if he’s not after me, then why…
Then it hits me.
He’s not after me.
He’s after Stewart.
I stand, beginning to tip toe my way towards the entrance to the hall, in an attempt to follow the whistling, and hopefully save Stewart. Further and further in he and I went, until it finally finds the entrance to the cells. As it enters, I realise it’s not just it’s whistling that’s ringing out. Now, I’m sure Stewart is chiming in, with terrified screams of anguish, like he’s being burned alive, or something! Oh god, oh Jesus, he’s in agony, I’m sure of it! Can’t stay hidden with him in the same room with that thing! I burst through the door; gun outstretched, sweats down my face, screaming at the top of my lungs to stop the madness in the cell. But I’m not met with the silhouette of the ghostly horror.
I’m met with nothing.
Nothing but an empty cell, a cool breeze, a dim light in the room.
What- what on earth…
Nothing? I look behind, and the lights have come back. Did I space out? I rub my head… none of this makes any sense… there’s nothing here! Nothing!
There is something.
A message. Scratched in the wall.
I squint. trying to make out the writing.
And when I do, my heart skips a beat.
"I don’t know if it’s real. I don’t know what it wants. I don’t know if I’m crazy. I know I’m terrified. God help me."
My mind gives into the fear, and recedes into the blackness.
Hours passed before I actually woke up. The two detectives dragged me from the cell like a bouncer, dragging a drunk out of a bar, and, of course, treated me like an infant, like I had taken a damn nap or something. I promptly called for a search on Stewart, but for weeks without a trace of his whereabouts the force promptly thought him kidnapped, and promptly fired me for my incompetence. Now, I don’t know if I had gone crazy or something, but I saw that thing. I know, damn well what happened. I think…
Did I actually see it?
Am I just crazy or something? Sitting here in my bed, contemplating, and thinking on what, in all honesty is a god damn scarecrow?
Nothing makes sense. Nothing is certain.
Except for one thing.
I can hear the whistling again.
Written by GentlemanWalrus
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